RIC Assistant Professor of Psychology Traci Weinstein noted that Hayes-Leite’s protocol is a form of social/emotional learning.
“Social/emotional learning was largely developed for K-12 students and has huge psychological benefits,” she said. “It incorporates critical thinking skills, such as the ability to be objective, and it teaches us how to manage our emotions and to empathize with others. Social/emotional learning is a muscle that we should build early and exercise regularly.”
Weinstein teaches social/emotional learning in her college courses at Rhode Island College. She noted, how people in our country are struggling with this skill. “They live in their own political or social bubbles and don’t know how to listen – or simply don’t want to listen – to anyone outside that bubble,” she said.
An antidote to tribalism, she said, would be to attend a meeting where you are the only male or female, the only LGBTQ+ individual, the only rich or poor person. In other words, learn from people who are different from you. “The more interaction you have outside your own group,” said Weinstein, “the more you’ll be able to expand your thinking.”
Last year RIC alumna Mia Palombo ’18 did student-teaching in Hayes-Leite’s class. This year she is a full-time social studies teacher in her own classroom at Blackstone Valley Prep Academy, a middle school. In her class she teaches her students the importance of working through conflict by thoroughly understanding both sides of an issue. They do this through role play. This year she asked her students to research a religion different from their own and then to pair up with a classmate and share that religion with their partner.
“Most of my students have a Christian background,” she said, “however, I also have a few Muslims and I had a Hindu student earlier in the year. So a student who is, say, Christian and believes in one god had to take on the role of a Hindu who believes in many gods. They shared how their religions differed and they shared something their two religions had in common. A Hindu and Christian, for example, found that they both believed in one god above all other gods,” said Palombo.
The capstone project will examine current conflicts between Christians, Muslims and Jews in the Middle East. “The idea is that you don’t know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, until you’ve looked at how they see the world,” said Palombo.
“I want my students to be global citizens, not just citizens of our state or citizens of our nation, but citizens of the world. In this day and age, we are so globally connected that everything that happens in another country will, in some way, affect their lives. My goal is to open their eyes to what’s happening around the world and to supply them with the tools they’ll need to solve the issues of the future,” she said.
Hopefully, with the help of these teachers, tomorrow's leaders will not only be well-informed, they will have entirely different rules of engagement in resolving conflict. Communication will be unimpeded by vast differences for they will have recognized that we have far more in common than we think.